Latinx Film and Media

The Garden Left Behind (Flavio Alves, 2019)


The Garden Left Behind follows Tina (played by Carlie Guevara), a Mexican trans woman who moved to New York City as a child and, as an adult, lives with her grandmother, Eliana. Eliana is a loving figure who sometimes has difficulty understanding Tina’s transition and overall existence as a diasporic working woman.

During the film, Tina must struggle with her immigration status and socio-economic and medical barriers to transition and make ends meet. She also navigates a troubled love relationship with a cis man and general societal tensions and repressions regarding her trans existence. 


In terms of production, this award-winning film features an authentic cast with transgender actors in trans roles and Latinx performers in Latinx roles. The same happens behind the camera as the production team collaborated with the Trans Filmmakers Project, among other film and LGBTQ+ organizations.

Even though the screenplay was developed and written by Brazilian director Flavio Alves and John Rotondo, two queer cisgender men, they engaged in timely research. 

In the Press Kit, Alves says, “To write the script, we interviewed trans women and men from many different backgrounds. To do the story justice, we met with more than 30 trans-led organizations, with hopes of including their concerns about the fictional story we were building. We needed to do our due diligence by listening to and incorporating the narratives that the trans community themselves provided to us.”

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Group Discussion

After reading together page 77 of David Spade’s essay “Queer and Trans Liberation Requires Abolition,” pick one of these three topics and discuss them with partners tracing how the discussions of these texts could be integrated.

  1. Intersectionality

The directors present Tina as a nuanced, intersectional character. Her life on the screen allows us to think about different interconnected Latinx and queer facets.

Why is projecting an intersectional perspective vital for this film? Bring examples.

(Spade, 76)

  1. The right to pleasure, joy, and love (the garden)

The film purposely dedicates time on screen to showing Tina’s self-care habits, intimacy, and her group of Black and brown trans friends. The film shows how they support each other with daily and medical advice but also as an emergent activist group against police brutality and transphobia.

Why are these scenes foregrounded in the movie? How do they function? What are they trying to convey?

(See 1:00:02)

  1. Black trans activism- against everyday violence and transphobia

The screenwriting team mentioned that they “interviewed several trans women who helped” them to shape Tina’s storyline. They acknowledge that the transgender experience is different for everyone, but they say that nearly every person they interviewed had experienced some sort of violence, including physical, verbal, and emotional. 

Clearly, one of the goals of the movie is to raise awareness of the frequent violence against trans people and some possible tools to combat it.

How are trans-organizing and activism represented in the film?

(See 26:00; 44:25 ) (Spade, 78)

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